Today in Texas History – August 26

From the Annals of Police Thuggery –  In 1870, one of the more violent episodes in the infamous Sutton-Taylor Feud occurred.  The STF was one of the longest bloodiest feuds in early Texas.  The feud allegedly arose from disputes following the Civil War. Josiah Taylor was a Virginian who settled near Cuero in DeWitt County. His sons, Pitkin and Creed Taylor and their sons, nephews, in-laws, and friends were the mainstay of that faction. William E. Sutton was a native of Fayette County who had moved to DeWitt County.  Many of the Sutton group were associated with the State Police.  There appears to be no evidence to support the claim that the STF began in another state and was carried forward to Texas.  The tortured path of the STF is hard to follow, but it apparently began in  1866, when Buck Taylor shot a black sergeant who came to a dance at Taylor’s uncle’s home, and Hays Taylor killed a black soldier in an Indianola saloon.  The violent Taylor saga continued when  brothers Hays and Doby Taylor killed two Union soldiers at Mason in November 1867 and then escaped to Karnes County.  In March 1868, Deputy Sheriff William Sutton led a posse in pursuit of a gang of horse thieves. When the gang was caught in Bastrop, Charley Taylor was killed and James Sharp was taken prisoner and then shot while “trying to escape.”

The Taylors claim that the STF began with the killing of Buck Taylor and Dick Chisholm at Clinton on Christmas Eve in 1868.  Buck apparently claimed Sutton had been dishonest in some horse dealing and a gun fight erupted.  Ultimately, the STF devolved into a running battle between the Taylors and  party and  the State Police under Edmund J. Davis and orchestrated largely by Capt. Jack Helm.  The State Police were involved in the killing of several members of the Taylor clan.  One of the worst episodes was the assassination by the State Police of Henry and William Kelly, sons-in-law of Pitkin Taylor, on August 26, 1870. The Kellys were arrested on a trivial charge, taken a few miles from home and shot.  Helm was dismissed after the shooting, but continued to serve as sheriff of Karnes County.   Sutton then became the de facto leader of the group.  Helm had the distinction of later being killed by John Wesley Hardin in Wilson County.

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